James Merriam Delahay
A Legacy of Knowledge Shared
Inducted in 2007
Structural engineer James M. “Jim” Delahay passed away last April, leaving a void in the region’s structural-engineering community. The young, vital president of Birmingham firm LBYD was a sought-after lecturer on wind engineering. Like the subject of his expertise, he went everywhere: speaking engagements, international building code sessions, construction sites, University of Alabama alumni projects, American Society of Civil Engineers’ activities, scout meetings, and youth baseball games. He loved sharing knowledge and did so with clarity and enthusiasm. With laptop and projector, he entered his element, his seminars providing the benchmark for all others.
Delahay was born in Montgomery and graduated from Lanier High School in 1976. He earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1980 from The University of Alabama and joined Birmingham’s Lane/Bishop/Hodnett. He became a registered professional engineer in 15 states. The year 1987 marked a milestone, as he completed a master’s degree in structural engineering and was also named a company principal. Elected president in 2000 of the firm now known as LBYD, he headed strategic planning, development and marketing, and human resources. He continued as senior principal for many projects, directing construction of award-winning and noteworthy structures like the Mercedes-Benz Visitors Center, The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Center for Human Genetics, SouthTrust Bank Wildwood Campus, Coleman Coliseum and Bryant-Denny Stadium upgrades at The University of Alabama, and Birmingham International Airport renovations and elevated roadway.
In 1999, Delahay became one of three practitioners on the 16-person International Building Code Structural Committee. Voted committee chairman in 2002, he was the first practicing engineer in that role, and he drafted sections of the new building code currently being adopted nationwide. His work in building-code development dated from 1991, when he joined Southern Building Code Congress International’s Wind Load Committee. Later he would serve with ASCE’s Committee 7, which maintains the document prescribing all structural building loads for the United States.
Delahay also chaired the Code Advisory Committee of the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations and was the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s wind expert on the team that dissected the damage from Hurricane Ivan. He was a founding member of the Structural Engineers Association of Alabama, serving in many capacities, including chairman. At his death, he was president of Applied Technology Council, a nonprofit research firm promoting engineering to mitigate hazards nationwide from wind, water, blasting, and earthquakes.
Delahay was a mainstay in advancement of education at The University of Alabama. He mentored students in the University’s ASCE chapter and, as a longtime College of Engineering Leadership Board member, opened many doors that advanced the College’s mission. In particular, he is remembered for transforming the design course for civil, construction, and environmental engineering seniors. Through Delahay’s dedication, the formerly professor-led class project became a competition among student-staffed-mock-design firms employing LBYD project files, with LBYD engineers as mock consultants and clients. The model Delahay made possible has now been adopted by other firms that support engineering education. UA named Delahay a Distinguished Engineering Fellow in 2003 and a Distinguished Department Fellow in 2004.
Jim is survived by Linda, his wife of 25 years, and by sons William, 13, and Matthew, 11.